The United Nations will airlift food this week to parts of Somalia suffering drought and famine where militants had previously banned aid workers, the Associated Press reports.
Aid workers have not been able to help 2.2 million Somalis who have been living in that area and have been forced to flee to Kenya and Ethiopia to find food. The UN efforts will try to reach 175,000 of them, it states.
The Al Qaeda-linked militant group Al Shabab banned aid workers from the region and has killed more than a dozen World Food Program employees since 2008.
“I hope we can cross to Ethiopia, but if we can get help here, we will stay here,’’ Somali Isaac Bulle, who traveled for more than three weeks with his two wives and 14 children to a border town, told the AP. “Our aim is just to get food. Not to leave the country.’’
Aid groups say areas of Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia are experiencing the worst drought in 60 years, affecting more than 12 million people, Reuters reports. In Somalia, 3.7 million are at risk of starvation.
Somali model Iman has called the famine "heartbreaking," she told BBC. "The situation now is not hopeless," she said, but "it is changing by the minute and it is getting worse and worse."
Analysts told Reuters the international efforts to address the crisis will do little more than help the symptoms of the disaster. These areas of Africa may face a cycle of crisis and intervention rather than lasting self-sufficiency because governments respond to disasters too late.
"Although humanitarian agencies are gearing themselves up to mount a response, it is far too late to address anything but the worst symptoms," Simon Levine, an analyst at the Overseas Development Institute think-tank, wrote on its website, Reuters reports.
"Measures that could have kept animals alive -- and providing milk, and income to buy food -- would have been much cheaper than feeding malnourished children, but the time for those passed with very little investment."